Parksville's Sandra McNeill

Parksville youth wins Duke of Edinburgh Award

'It's a really bug deal,' says 19-year-old Sandra McNeill

A 19-year-old Parksville girl was presented with the silver level Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Saturday night at a ceremony held in Burnaby.

Sandra McNeill, the only recipient from Parksville Qualicum Beach, accepted the award from the lieutenant governor of British Columbia Judith Guichon.

A news release issued by the Duke of Edinburgh’s executive director Sushil Saini described the award as “the most prestigious international youth award in the world.”

“It’s a really big deal to me,” McNeill told The NEWS  with pride. “I’ve been working towards this for three years — it’s a major achievement.”

McNeill explains the purpose of the award is to encourage young people to set their own goals and challenge themselves to grow on a personal level. There is no competition between the participants as the award recognizes long term commitment, self motivation, community engagement and persistence. It requires applicants to demonstrate four categories: skill, community service, physical recreation and adventure.

McNeill’s application for the award consists of a two-inch binder brimming with newspaper clippings, pictures and log books.

“It’s kind of like a scrapbook of the last three years of my life,” said McNeill. “I really enjoyed putting it together.”

McNeill’s book provides a snap shot of her unique life from her days in high school theatre to her career as a professional magician; it also includes pictures of McNeill playing poi, volunteering with Girl Guides and camping in Nanaimo.

“Taking part in this program really taught me a lot about myself,” said McNeill. “I learned a lot about my boundaries in terms of what I can do and what I can’t.”

The next and final rank of the award is a gold level, something McNeill said she is “absolutely” going to work towards.

The Duke of Edinburgh Award originated in the United Kingdom in 1963 and was brought to Canada in 1956.

The program is open to youth ages 14 to 25.

Last weekend’s ceremony saw 65 youth from British Columbia receive the silver level award.

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